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Travel, UK

12 Great Things to do in East London

November 26, 2018

Things to do in East London

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

For several years now, East London has become more and more popular. This rise in popularity has increased the things to do in East London. The variety of things to do isn’t just for the young and hip but also things for children to adults. The last two times I have visited London, I have stayed in Hackney and really enjoyed getting to know East London, and it is now my preferred area in London.

Old Spitalfields Market

Things to do in East London

You know you can expect something special in a market that has been operating on the same site for over 350 years. Old Spitalfields Market is a daily open-air market. The market hosts vendors selling art, clothes, shoes, beauty products and much more. Some vendors are small shops, and some are established retailers located in the surrounding buildings of the market.

Also, there are plenty of food stalls and restaurants. On my recent visit, I ate at a restaurant that specializes in cheese! I opted for a sandwich, but you could also get fondue. Some places have chairs and tables, and others are take away only. You can shop and eat at the same time if you like. Old Spitalfields Market is open every day, although not every vendor is open every day.

Brick Lane

Brick Lane Band in a Bus

Brick Lane is actually a street in East London, but it is more than just a street. On Sundays, there is a market. The market will have vendors selling vintage clothes, furniture, and other items. There are some food stalls as well. Live music and entertainment are usually found as well. Last year, I saw a band playing a van!

If you are there another day of the week, there are plenty of shops to visit. Also, Brick Lane is home to some of the best Bangladeshi curry houses in London. Let your nose guide you to the curry house as you can smell them from a block or so away!

Street Art

Things to do in East London

East London is the home of street art in London. Much of the street art is not far from Brick Lane, but some can be found all around the area. You can see a lot without a guide, but there are some pieces you may not find without help. I recommend taking a tour not only to see the hard to find ones but also to get a better understanding of the artists and their art. You can probably do the tour every year since street art does not always last for long.

London Fields

Things to do in East London

London Fields is one of my favorite parks in London. It is not as well know as others, but it a wonderful spot to spend the afternoon. It is located in the borough of Hackney in East London. You can reach it by taking the Overground to Hackney Central or London Fields station.

The park has a lido with a heated swimming pool that was renovated in 2017. In the summer, people gather here on the weekends to BBQ and sunbath. Parts of the park become wildflower fields in the summer. It is a popular place for people to walk their dogs. Right in the park is a pub as well. In the fall, the trees are changing color, and people are out enjoying a run in London Fields. There are also tennis courts that can be reserved.

Hackney Empire Theater

Things to do in East London

 

You don’t have to go to West London to see a show. You can catch a show at the Hackney Empire Theater. They show a variety of shows including local talent as well as touring theater shows. The interior of the theater is also something to behold as it is beautifully decorated. It was originally built in 1901 and was reopened in 2004 after a three-year renovation.

V&A Museum of Childhood

If you are in London with kids, the V&A Museum of Childhood is a great free option. There are exhibitions on the history of childhood including toys and clothes and lots of daily activities for kids. Next door is the Museum Park. The V&A Museum of Childhood is one block away from the Bethnal Green tube station.

Regents Canal

Things to do in East London

Walking along the Regents Canal is one of my favorite things to do in East London. I like looking at the canal boats that are docked there. There is also great people watching as many people run and bike along the canal. You can also see birds enjoying the canal as well. Near Broadway Market, you can see some old oil storage tanks that are not used anymore. There is also some great graffiti on some parts of the canal.

The canal boats are required to move locations every two weeks unless they have a private mooring. So another thing you can watch is the boats going through the locks. If you are feeling really ambitious, you could walk the whole 8.6 miles of the Regents Canal!

Broadway Market

Things to do in East London

Broadway Market is more than a market these days, and while there is still a market on Saturdays, the whole street is lined with things to do during the week. Broadway Market is next to London Fields and the Regents Canal so you could make a day of visiting all three.

One of my favorite things to do on Broadway Market on a non-market day is to visit the Broadway Bookshop. They have a great selection of bestsellers and local authors. My favorite place to eat on Broadway Market is El Ganso. It is a Spanish tapas restaurant. The menu changes but is always good. On my last visit, I had a fried zucchini flower stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey!

Victoria Park

Things to do in East London

Victoria Park is a large park located in East London. The park has a long history as it was established in 1845. During the early years, there was a large public fountain that gave the local residents access to clean drinking water. You can still see the fountain today. There are several ponds with aquatic birds including swans. It is a great place to walk your dog, have a picnic or go for a jog.

Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum is a museum of the home. It shows what the homes in different time periods. The Geffrye also has a fantastic garden located behind the museum. As I was checking their website for updated information, I noticed that the main museum is closed for renovations till 2020. However, the restored almshouse is open on select dates, and there are still events happening at the museum. I look forward to visiting again after the renovations!

Columbia Road Flower Market

Things to do in East London

East London is full of markets, but this one is not like the others. The Columbia Road Flower Market is only a flower market. It only operates on Sundays. If you are only visiting London, you may not want to buy flowers, but it is worth visiting to see how beautiful it is. There are also some great shops to explore along the road that is open even when the flower market is not open.

Photo from Flickr by Jerome Yewdall

Hackney Museum

The Hackney Museum is another great place to visit if you have children with you. The museum is located on the ground floor of the Hackney Central Library. Entry is free. The permanent exhibit covers the history of Hackney and most of the displays are interactive and are the right size for kids.

As you can see, there are so many things to do in East London. I hope I have inspired you to explore London beyond the typical tourist locations and explore a neighborhood where Londoners live. Have you been to East London? What is your favorite thing to do in East London?

Stay in The East London Hotel for easy access for all things to do in East London, click here for rates!

Art, Travel, UK

Shoreditch London Street Art Tour

November 19, 2018

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Since I started traveling, I have noticed street art around the world. Last year, I wandered around East London admiring the street art of Shoreditch. However, I really wanted to know more about it, so this year I went on the Shoreditch Street Art Tour through Airbnb Experiences. I also invited Suzie from Suzie Speaks along as we always enjoy a good catch-up when I am in London.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

A Brief Background on Street Art

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Many modern street artists are former graffiti artists. Graffiti is defined as drawing or writing on a flat surface. Graffiti is not a recent invention, though. Ancient graffiti has been found in Pompeii and Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Even ancient graffiti was illicit, so the artist had to be fast in order not to be caught. For the modern artist, this led to learning to develop excellent freehand skills. This is why so many graffiti artists have become outstanding street artists.

So what is the difference between street art and graffiti? Graffiti wasn’t always for public consumption in the beginning. Graffiti artists were sometimes in it to outdo other graffiti artists. The graffiti would be put in obscure spots and many times out of the public eye. You see examples of these on bridge overpasses. Street art is usually in very public spaces. Also, street art isn’t always just made up of spray paint, and many mediums may be used in one piece.

In my opinion, the rise and acceptance of street art has led to the acceptance of graffiti as art. Although, most graffiti is still done without permission as is some street art. In recent years, street art has gained even more credibility due to the popularity of artists like Banksy. Many artists have had their works shown in galleries and street art galleries have sprung up as well.

The Tour

Dean was our tour guide for this art walk around Shoreditch. He has been around the London street art scene since he was 11! Needless to say, he knew so much about every piece we saw. I don’t think I have run across a tour guide with so much enthusiasm as Dean. It was like he was giving the tour for the first time.

It became apparent that this tour would be different when he brought us to the first piece on the tour. Dean began to explain the history of the piece by AKAJimmyC. The piece had been created with large dots that when layered upon themselves became the art we now see. Much to my surprise, the first art was a portrait. The artist had asked permission from the shop if he could paint the wall, for free no less. So that the piece would have meaning for the shop, he painted a portrait of the owner and his daughter. The store has since been sold, but the new owners were happy for the piece to remain as is and even commissioned the artist to paint a wall inside.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

While this piece was not the largest of the street art we saw on the tour, it represented the passion shown by street artists and the dedication they have to their craft. It also spoke to the craftsmanship of a street artist. The portrait made by dots reminded me of Impressionism with a modern take. But the focus of the piece told me the artist is thoughtful of the neighborhood they seek to embellish with their art.

Dean continued to impress me with his knowledge of the street art we were seeing. He knows the history of most of the pieces and the artist. Because street art tends to be transient in nature the piece can disappear. Although some smaller pieces tend to remain. Another thing that Dean did that added to the tour was showing us the artist’s Instagram accounts. Many of these artists have art all over the world, and we could see them this way, but it also showed how some have improved their skills and evolved as an artist.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Last year, I saw a stunning piece that I loved, and I was looking forward to learning more about it. Sadly, it has been painted over since I was in London last. In fact, the wall has been painted over three times since. One time it was done without permission, and that is when the piece was lost. However, the new piece is also a fantastic portrait by the street artist Mr. Cenz. We saw several pieces of street art by this particular artist along the tour.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Some of the best pieces would be hard to find without a guide. Down a quiet street, which is hard to find in Shoreditch, Dean took us down an alleyway to show us a large piece that was done entirely by freehand done by artist Fanakapan. I had no idea that many street artists will draw the piece small and then project it onto the wall and then painted it. It definitely makes me appreciate the free hand done ones even more.

Shoreditch Street Art Tour

Of course, many places still think of street art as just harmful graffiti and not as art. Many of these street artists started as taggers and graffiti artists and have grown into the amazing artists we see today. As with beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder and street art is just the same. Society is slowly changing its attitude towards street art and even graffiti. Many cities around the world have become organic museums.

What do you think of street art? Do you have any favorite pieces?

Here are links to the other street artists Instagram that are featured.

BKFoxx

Phlegm

Envol Studio

Hotel/Accommodation, Travel, UK

The East London Hotel Review

November 12, 2018

The East London Hotel

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Recently, I was invited by The East London Hotel to stay a night. While I was their guest, all opinions are my own. The East London Hotel opened in September of this year in a former wine warehouse. The hotel prices are affordable, especially for London, but also because it feels like a boutique hotel.

The Room

My room at The East London Hotel was a standard double room with a window. Some rooms do not have a window, so if that is important to you, make sure you double-check when you book. I arrived at night so I couldn’t see much of the view till the next morning.

While the room is on the small side, it is well thought out and I had enough space. The bed takes up much of the room and is one of the most comfortable hotel beds I have slept in! Plus it had four pillows and I love having tons of pillows.

The East London Hotel

Under the bed is storage for your suitcase, which if you had two people in the room you would need. Inside the headboard are built in reading lights that turn on when you pull them out. Right above the bed is a massive flat screen tv which is great when you come back to your room and want to chill before going to sleep.

The East London Hotel

The bathroom is also compact but never felt too small. It feels luxurious with the rainfall showerhead and modern design. Hot water was almost on instantly and the hotel’s toiletry brand is Rituals, which I love.

The East London Hotel

In the morning, I raised the window shade and was greeted with a beautiful view of the park across the street. I enjoyed looking out over it while I enjoyed a coffee from the Nespresso machine in the room.

 The East London Hotel

The only drawback about the room for me was that they did not install any international plugs, which would have been easy to do in a new hotel. The one USB plug was a good alternative though.

The East London Hotel

Since I only stayed one night, I am unsure of how the good housekeeping was once a room was slept in. What I loved was the switch inside the room that changed the color of the sign outside the door. Red was for do not disturb and green was housekeeping requested. I hate those hangtags and loved this alternative.

The East London Hotel

The Breakfast

Breakfast is served on the ground floor of the hotel. This area is also the reception area but feels more like a coffee shop or bar. Rather than it being a breakfast buffet, which I was expecting, it was a sit-down breakfast. You had the choice of a bagel or sourdough break with two toppings. You also got a coffee and juice. Then you could add a pastry or yogurt.

The East London Hotel

I opted for a bagel with cream cheese and bacon on the side with yogurt. The service was fast and the food was good. I wished there had been a healthy option like oatmeal though. There was also no water offered during breakfast.

Reception

In what is probably an upcoming trend in hotels is that there was self check-in. Despite this, I was guided through the process with the help of a staff member. After entering your last name and confirming your dates, you are instructed to take a key card and place it on the reader. The card is then made. You can make more than one if you need. Check-out was a similar process and you just turn in the key card in a drop box.

What I liked about not having a reception was that it allowed the room to be used for other things throughout the day. In the morning, breakfast is served. Later the room is a coffee shop and a bar. People were working on their laptops or watching the television. It seemed like a way for people to meet others like you would in a hostel setting.

The East London Hotel

Another trend I see happening in hotels is the lack of phones in the rooms and offering contact via Whatsapp. The East London Hotel also operates on this model. I messaged them a question and was immediately answered. The drawbacks to this are the inability to give you a wake-up call, which if you have an early flight to catch it could be an issue, and you have to have Whatsapp downloaded.

The Location

Obviously, The East London Hotel is in East London but the great thing is that is two blocks from the Bethnal Green tube station, which means you can be in Central London in about 20 minutes. The V&A Museum of Childhood is right across the street as well as the museum park and Bethnal Green Garden. Behind the hotel is Paradise Row with several restaurants and bars. The location makes it a great place to base yourself during your London trip.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at The East London Hotel and would definitely stay again. I loved the cozy vibe of the main floor and the English feel of the rooms and while it doesn’t have tons of amenities, the great location makes up for that!

Driving, Europe, Montenegro, Travel

Tips for Driving in Montenegro

October 25, 2018
Tips for Driving in Montenegro

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Two lane highways and cliffside drives dominated my driving in Montenegro. Knowing me, it was a good thing I didn’t know that the coast of Montenegro was a series of steep rock faces heading into the Adriatic Sea; otherwise, I might not have rented a car. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does! Renting a car is the most efficient way to see the Old Towns of Montenegro. Here are my tips for driving in Montenegro and not going over the cliffs.

The Roads

Almost every road was a two-lane road. The only place I went in Montenegro that had more than two lanes was Budva and that was only in the central part of town. Many of these roads were narrow, and you share the roads with tour buses and public buses. These narrow roads started just after Herceg Novi and continued to Bar. Since I stuck to the coast of Montenegro, I am not sure if the roads inland are wider or more than two lanes. The narrow lanes bothered me more than the cliff driving, probably because I couldn’t see the edge or the water from the cliffs in most cases.

Most of the roads I drove on were in decent shape. This is especially true near the towns. However, some of the bridges seemed like they needed some work. Although, none seemed dangerous. Rural roads are not in as good of shape according to the articles I have read.

Due to the narrow roads and the lack of multiple lanes, traffic can be an issue in the towns. I noticed that traffic was very heavy in Kotor when there was a cruise ship in the bay and even worse if there were two cruise ships or if it was a large ship. Most of the traffic was centered around Kotor old town. Getting into Budva was another place I saw lots of traffic. After I left Montenegro, I learned that Budva is a popular beach spot for Eastern Europeans and that explained the amount of traffic there.

The Rules

As in much of Europe, you drive on the right in Montenegro. According to the rules I have looked up, you should drive with low beams on during the day in Montenegro. I only discovered this after I saw people doing it. Obviously, you will want to drive with your regular lights on during the night. I also turned them on when going through the mountain tunnels.

The speed limit varied a lot on the roads and sometimes went down to 30 Kmh in towns. Pay attention to the signs as they changed quickly and the fines for speeding more than 10 Kmh are steep and can include jail time. My GPS beeped at me when it knew the speed limit was changing and I was going over it. Hint, rent the GPS from your car rental company. Seatbelts are required. I did see cops pulling people over, but never saw a radar gun. They may have just been pulling people over to check papers. This never happened to me, though. They also just wave at you to pull over and were not chasing people down in their cars with a siren or lights.

An international drivers license was not required, but I did rent my car in Croatia, check prices here. My advice is to have one if you are planning on driving overseas in any country. They do not cost much, and it is better to be safe than sorry!

The legal drinking limit is very low at .03% so my advice would to just not drink and drive in Montenegro. It isn’t worth going to jail in any country for a drink.

Parking

Parking in Montenegro was a bit haphazard. My Airbnb advertised free parking, but in reality, it was pullover as close to the wall next to the house as close as possible next to the street. It was a good thing my rental car was small and I never saw large passenger cars in Montenegro. Many areas in Montenegro had paid parking areas. At first, I was reluctant to do use the paid parking as usually, it is expensive, but then I saw how cheap it was and I immediately started parking in the paid spots. I never paid more than €3 for parking. In some towns, there was free parking, but it was usually full. In Herceg Novi, I couldn’t figure out where to pay. I asked an official-looking man in the parking lot and I had to go to the mini market and pay and then put the ticket on my dashboard. Most of the other parking was take a ticket and pay on the way out or pay an attendant.

Overall, driving in Montenegro was pretty easy. Have you driven in Montenegro? What was your experience?